They say admitting you have a problem is the first step to fixing it, and if you aren’t using inbound marketing in your SaaS business, you have a problem. Inbound isn’t just a ‘nice-to-have’ for your SaaS business, but an essential part of your demand generation strategy.
Offering the opportunity to regularly engage with your customers and prospects alike, inbound communications can play a key role in securing new business and maximising customer retention.
With these benefits in mind, just think about what inbound marketing could do for your SaaS business. Excited yet? You should be! In the event you’ve decided to give it a try, then here’s where we’d recommend you begin.
Step 1 - Build Your Inbound MarTech Stack
First things first, you need to review the marketing technologies you have at your disposal. This will outline the potential and limitations of your SaaS inbound marketing strategy.
Additionally, it’ll also offer a good indication on where the gaps are in your marketing tech stack and how this may impact your capability to conduct a successful inbound marketing programme.
At a minimum, you’ll need the following basic technology pillars:
- Website & landing page solution- Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager
- CRM (well structured without lots of redundant data)
- Marketing automation platform
- Sales automation platform
The marketing technology landscape is notorious for being overpopulated, so there’s no shortage of options for each of the above.
As a guide to finding the right solution for your business, starting small and making sure each component plays nicely with all the other elements of your marketing stack is a good approach.
Alternatively, going with a single provider, like HubSpot, that covers all layers will ensure that you don’t have any integration or sync issues.
Step 2 - Identify Your Ideal Customer Profile & Customer Segments
Once you have the necessary technology in place, you’re then ready to start laying the foundations for your inbound campaigns.
Your first step will be to identify who exactly it is you want to target. What is your ideal customer profile? What are their common characteristics? How do they behave?
These are questions you need to think about carefully as they’ll form the basis for your communications.
This identification stage is often broken up into pieces to ensure audience groupings are objectively and effectively created with full justification.
Customer Segmentation and Prioritisation
In this stage, you need to break up your customer base into groups based on simple criteria that genuinely differentiate them from one another.
This split may be based on the target’s seniority, job title, sector, value, organisation type or other variables. Whatever it is, it’s important the differential in characteristics impacts their challenges (and how you meet them), or at the very least how you would communicate with them.
If the customer differences don’t change how they engage with you, or what they need from you, then they don’t necessarily need to be separated.
Once you’ve segmented your audience based on key characteristics, you then want to prioritise, identifying which groups are most lucrative and easy to attract.
You’ll want to consider the resources required to engage with them, how likely they are to purchase and the size of the audience.
Each of these factors will influence how you prioritise. At the end of this process, your greatest priority group should be the one that’s the easiest to communicate with and most likely to buy for the least resources.
This is the low hanging fruit that’s likely to take the least effort and budget to convert to a sale.
Once your targets have been segmented, you want to delve deeper into each group and identify common characteristics in order to build out personas.
|What is a persona?|
|A buyer persona is a representation of your ideal customer. Typically the persona is built based on a combination of market research and existing customer data.|
These personas will add significant detail to each segmented group and help outline their behaviour, preferences and profile to a granular level.
This is critical, as this information will be used as justification for strategic and creative decision making later on in your SaaS inbound strategy.
Customer Journey Development
Once you have your personas, you can start mapping out each group’s unique customer journey. This is the journey a customer takes from first hearing about your business all the way through to the point of sale.
It outlines the common engagement path an individual will take, from the stage they recognise they have a problem, all the way through to the point where they seek out a solution and then choose to engage with a vendor to discuss what they can offer.
Step 3 - Refine Your Value Proposition
With your personas in hand, you now have a good idea as to who you’ll be talking to and so you can start to map out what you want to say and how.
First, you need to scope out and finalise your value proposition; what value are you looking to deliver and how are you intending to communicate it?
This will form the basis for the messaging you use to engage with each persona so it’s critical there’s a consistent understanding of your primary proposition within your business.
Once you’ve agreed on your value proposition, you need to think about how it correlates with your personas and how it can help them solve their problems.
From here, you need to consider their customer journey and think about what education they’ll require in order to recognise what you offer as a genuine solution.
Step 4 - Create Content Mapped to the Customer Journey
Ok, so you now have:
- Personas identified and prioritised- Each group’s customer journey mapped out
- A clear view on your value proposition
- An understanding of how it will be communicated to each persona
With these foundations in place, you now need to develop content mapped to each persona’s buyer journey. This needs to educate and nurture prospects, driving them from first contact with your organisation, all the way through to a point where they’re ready to purchase.
The Customer Journey
The customer journey is the route prospects take on their way to purchase. At its most basic level, it typically consists of 3 layers, each of which have their own objective. As a result, content must be aligned with the priorities of each stage to effectively drive Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs), Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) and purchases.
Top of Funnel (TOFU)
The "awareness" stage, where people are looking for answers, resources, education, research data, opinions, and insight.
Middle of the Funnel (MOFU)
The "evaluation" stage, where people are doing heavy research on whether or not your product or service is a good fit for them.
Bottom of the Funnel (BOFU)
The "purchase" stage, where people are figuring out exactly what it would take to become a customer.
Step 5 - Keyword Research to Identify Search Opportunities
So you have an outline of the content you’ll need to capture your prospect’s attention and nurture them towards sale, now you need to think about how you’ll get it in front of them, and this is where keyword research comes in.
|What is keyword research?|
|Put simply, keyword research is the recognition and identification of the key search terms your personas are looking for in search engines. With this information in hand, content can be built around these key terms in order to drive highly targeted organic traffic.|
With the right keyword research, you’ll be able to get your content in front of the right people, at the right stage of the buyer journey. This is essential to getting the attention you desire and getting the right prospects into your nurture strategy.
The best keyword research strategies map keywords to the customer journey to ensure prospects are organically coming into the funnel at different stages on terms related to the customer problems.
Remember, when it comes to great keyword research, you want to make sure you’ve covered your bases to maximise the potential and impact of your content.
Step 6 - Personalisation
As a B2B SaaS business, you’re not just communicating with prospects, but customers too. Your SaaS inbound marketing campaign should not only be driving new sign ups to your proposition, but also driving customer retention too.
As a result, you need to identify what each group needs and accommodate accordingly. While your prospects need convincing on your offering’s potential, your customers need content that helps them make the most of what they’ve purchased.
With this in mind, customer-focused content should be designed to help them optimise the value they derive from your SaaS offering. These communications will typically be much more informal and reflect the dynamic of the business relationship.
Differences to consider between content for prospects and customers:
- Needs to be convinced your proposition can deliver value
- Wants to see examples and case studies providing value
- Needs to be professional and relatively informal
- Driven by external research and data points, and guided by internal strategy
- Already convinced about your proposition’s value, but need help to tap into its full potential
- Wants to see case studies showing how the proposition’s value can be optimised
- Can be more personal to reflect the business relationship
- Driven by evolving customer needs and data points
Remember, you need to recognise and treat prospects and customers differently to reflect their pain points, priorities and relationship with your organisation.
Step 7 - Measure Success
With much of your strategy now outlined, you want to consider how you intend to measure the performance of your inbound activity.
What do you want to achieve from your B2B SaaS inbound strategy and what are the core KPIs involved? How will be they be tracked and are they automated, or is manual data collection required? These are considerations you need to think about in your measurement efforts.
Also consider what you want to achieve in what timeframe and ensure your key metrics accurately reflect this ambition. One way or another, you need to know what success looks like and how relative ROI can be determined. Without this capability, it’ll be very difficult to separate success from failure and so it’s essential you have quantitative objectives in place to effectively evaluate your efforts.
Step 8 - Content Distribution Strategy
Once you have your content and it’s all aligned to your persona’s key preferences, you then need to plan out how you intend to get in front of them. This is where you need to think about your distribution strategy. Will you use paid channels? If so which ones and why?
To get maximum bang for your buck, your distribution strategy should combine cluster content and campaign content to maximise traffic and create a fully aligned approach to maximising distribution reach on both an organic and paid level.
There are a plethora of paid channels that you could use, but the two primary channels for B2B SaaS businesses are Adwords and LinkedIn.
Adwords is great for meeting demand. As your buyers are searching for the problem your solution solves, competitors, or other related keywords, you can ensure that your content is the first thing they’ll see.
For search terms at the top of the funnel it’s often a good idea to keep your content un-gated. For those high-intent terms which are showing that the buyer is ready to buy, gate the content and then follow them up quickly with an email & call sequence.
LinkedIn is the most powerful platform for pinpoint targeting of B2B buyers. You can hone in on your ideal customer profile by geography, organisation details, job role and much more. There’s a variety of different ad formats from pre-populated lead generation forms to one-to-one messaging through the Inmail system.
Building out your paid strategy doesn’t have to be rocket science, it’s actually the simple things that work the best. The most important rule is to put yourself in your buyer’s shoes, think deeply about their needs and pain points, and then offer value aligned to your solution.
If looking to adopt inbound marketing in your SaaS organisation, then you need to think very carefully about who you’re targeting, why and how.
These are all critical questions that will significantly impact the success of your strategy in not only driving new customers, but retention too. Remember, in the world of SaaS inbound marketing, your current customers are just as important as your prospects.